[r51] Dodge's Column (3/7/2008)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Start Date: 3/7/2008 All Day
End Date: 3/7/2008
(STATEHOUSE) March 7, 2008 -When Indiana taxpayers send their children to school they expect results; they expect their children to receive an excellent education that they carry with them throughout their lives. Likewise, when Indiana taxpayers invest money into public education they again expect results; they expect the school to show growing improvements in academics each year.

The Friedman Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education, conducted a study that looks at how much money the state of Indiana has been investing in public education and what kind of return on that investment the school system has provided.

They found that over the last ten years, Indiana taxpayers have consistently invested an increasing level of funds in their public schools, even though the public school system has consistently produced insufficient improvements in academic outcomes.

The Indiana Department of Education provides students' ISTEP scores for grades 3, 6, 8 and 10. Between 1998 and 2001, scores in English dropped in grades 3, 6 and 8 while math scores were mostly flat. Between 2002 and 2007, both English and math scores slightly increased. Grade 10 scores have shown different trends with English scores going down and math scores going slightly up between 1998 and 2003.

The Friedman Foundation found that from the 1996-97 school year to the 2005-06 school year, Indiana public school spending increased from $6.9 billion to $10.9 billion, which is a 52 percent increase (refer to the chart below.) Indiana taxpayers have a right to expect that every dollar invested in schools will produce results. If schools spend more money on construction, it is only fair to assume that the school system will produce better results because the building is in better condition.

Money that is being spent in ways that do not make any differences to school outcomes is being used unwisely. If the public school system has been given additional resources and has failed to use them wisely in ways that produce improvements, that ought to be taken into consideration as part of the debate over property taxes.

The main point to consider is that over the last decade, academic outcomes in Indiana public school have remained mostly flat even though more money is being allocated. When a budget is expanded and produces little change in its effectiveness, the idea of an even bigger budget with the hopes of results becomes harder to accept.

For more information regarding the Friedman Foundation, log onto http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/. As always, you can always contact my office. I can be reached by phone at 1-800-382-9841, by e-mail at h51@iga.in.gov or by mail at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.